[Anglican Alliance] In a remarkable week, world church leaders have raised their voices urging decisive action on climate change.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch, has underlined our moral responsibility to act now both to reduce human suffering and to preserve the diversity and beauty of God’s creation for future generations.
In a joint article to the New York Times, the two leaders wrote: “As representatives of two major Christian communions, we appeal to the world’s governments to act decisively and conscientiously by signing an ambitious and hopeful agreement in Paris during COP 21 at the end of this year.”
“We hope and pray that this covenant will contain a clear and convincing long-term goal that will chart the course of de-carbonization in the coming years. Only in this way can we reduce the inequality that flows directly from climate injustice within and between countries,” they said.
Archbishop Justin Welby has also committed to fast and pray for the success of negotiations of a universal climate agreement at the UN summit in Paris in December.
Archbishop Welby joined faith leaders in signing the Lambeth Declaration, which calls on faith communities to act on the urgent need to shrink society’s carbon footprint.
The Declaration, signed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and other faith leaders in the UK, warns that world leaders must agree to reduce emissions to avoid average temperatures rising beyond 2⁰C, widely considered to be the threshold above which it is considered that the impacts of climate change will be most severe.
“Archbishop Justin and the other faith leaders have rightly identified the disproportionate impact that climate change is having on the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our world: this is an issue of justice,” said Anglican Alliance Co-Executive Director, the Revd Rachel Carnegie.
Landmark Papal Encyclical
The following day saw the launch of Pope Francis’s highly anticipated, landmark Encyclical, Laudato si’ (Praise be to you) on Care for our Common Home, reflecting on the extreme urgency of action on climate change, which asks the profoundest questions on “what it means to be human”.
Reflecting on humanity’s relationship with the planet, the Pope also highlights how attacks on the environment impact most gravely upon the poorest.
In his Encyclical, Pope Francis writes: “Today we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
The Pope reflects on the teaching of St Francis, saying that the saint “shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”
Reflecting on the Pope’s Encyclical, Rachel Carnegie said: “Pope Francis is showing inspired leadership to bring about not only radical change in lifestyle, production and consumption but also a rethinking of humanity’s relationship with our planet.”
This Encyclical is a “very substantial and compelling document not just for Roman Catholics but for the whole Church and all people who live together in our common home,” said the Church of England’s lead on the environment, Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam.
“Churches and other faith communities have a unique power to mobilise people for the common good and change attitudes and behaviours. We also need to strengthen our politicians to achieve ambitious, accountable and binding climate change agreements, nationally and internationally,” said Bishop Holtam.
“It is electrifying to see Anglicans and other faith leaders boldly coming together in the spirit of the Pope’s Encyclical to address the grave challenge of climate change,” Rachel Carnegie said.
The Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, welcomed Pope Francis’s emphasis on “the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems”.
“The values of dignity and fairness are at the heart of how we respond to the crisis. How we look after the environment is at its core about how we value our fellow human beings,” Archbishop Makgoba said.
The Rt Reverend Dennis P Drainville, Bishop of Quebec, has pledged to make space for the voices of those too long silenced: indigenous peoples and women worldwide. “We pay dearly for ignoring the depth of their connection with all life and their understanding that we are but one species upon the earth.”
Let us work together to create a “Climate of Hope,” he said.
Some 5000 campaigners and religious leaders marched in Rome on Sunday to show support for Pope Francis’s Encyclical and to send a strong message to world leaders to take action.
At the One Earth, One Human Family event, the Most Reverend Sir David Moxon, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, underlined the need for a global response, said The Guardian.
“The challenge facing Europe and all of the industrialised and industrialising world is very important – we’re going to choke or cook unless we do something about it,” he said.
“What is most welcome about the Pope’s contribution is its timing. We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last that can do something to stop it… It is vital that leaders respond to this by reducing carbon emissions and delivering support for vulnerable communities already suffering,” said Christine Allen, Christian Aid’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs.
Archbishop Makgoba challenged leaders at the climate talks in Paris in December to show the same inspired moral and ethical leadership.
The priority of climate change
Climate justice is a key priority for the Anglican Alliance, identified in all its regional consultations around the Communion. It also reflects the Fifth Mark of Mission, adopted by the Anglican Consultative Council in 1984: “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”
In 2014, the Anglican Alliance supported the Anglican churches and agencies of the Pacific and Australia in successfully campaigning to have climate change included on the agenda of the G20 world leaders meeting in Brisbane.
In the lead-up to the Paris climate summit in December 2015, the Anglican Alliance has also joined forces with other faith groups in the coalition Our Voices, to bring the combined voices of faith communities to the climate talks.
Anglican Alliance Co-Executive Director, the Revd Andy Bowerman, is joining the People’s Pilgrimage to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in December.
Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Today’s top stories, June 30, 2015